Friday, February 28, 2014

Review:The Baker's Boy by J.V. Jones

The king's chancellor and powerful sorcerer Baralis has been plotting for decades to rule the kingdom of Harvell and eventually create for himself an empire. He secretly fathered the heir Prince Kylock and is responsible for an injury to the king that leaves him unable to rule. Now Baralis turns his attentions to a former co-conspirator Lord Maybor who has plans of his own. Maybor wishes to have his daughter Melliandra marry Kylock and secure more power for himself. Something Baralis won't allow. Meanwhile an orphaned baker's apprentice Jack learns he may have powers of his own and must flee the castle that has been his home as Baralis will undoubtedly see him as a threat. Melliandra has no desire to wed Kylock and decides to run away herself.

A wiseman named Bevlin had foreseen events taking place in the present and had dispatched a young knight named Tawl on a vague quest to "find the boy". Tawl is imprisoned by the corrupt archbishop of Rorn. He is eventually released so the archbishop can try and figure out what he is up to. The archbishop also gets wind of Baralis' plans and is very uneasy about them.

At first glance the Baker's Boy might appear to be a combination of standard fantasy stereotypes. This is certainly not the case. What I found extremely refreshing is that the plot focussed on the three villians, Baralis, Maybor and the archbishop and their plots as well as how they play spoiler to the  three heroes. However I did have some trouble with the characterization for the three as they are all too much like stereotypical villains and can lack a degree of complexity. For example the archbishop is portrayed as glutton in almost every scene he appears in and they all seem to suffer from an unrealistic overconfidence. Oddly enough the only villain who doesnt seem to fall into this trap is Baralis assisant and I'm curious to see how he develops.

Pacing is very well controlled and the world-building is interesting as well.

Overall I enjoyed the different approach by focusing on the villains' various schemes but bit more complexity in their characterization would have been a great touch. 7.5/10.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Review: Storm Dancer by Rayne Hall

Dahoud is a former military commander who committed great atrocities, particularly against women, at the behest of djinn that shares his soul. He has been in hiding for years, working as a clerk and hoping to forget his past. When he is given an opportunity to become the satrap of a territory he hopes he can make up for all he has done. Merida is a weather magician who has recently become a diplomat to a land that doesn't believe in her skills. However when she brings rain she may have also brought a great deal of trouble for herself.

The first thing that I noticed about this novel is that the prose does not gel with the 'dark' fantasy setting the author was trying to create. It is rather simplistic and underdeveloped.

Most of the characters come across as highly naive. While this may suit Merida it certainly doesn't suit the rest of the cast.

The plot is highly unorganized and scampers all over the show. There is very little build up to important moments and it often seems to lack an overall vision.

There aren't quite enough typos to say the book was riddled with them but there are certainly enough to be distracting.

While the basic premise of Storm Dancer had potential, huge problems in the prose, character development and overall plot made it a chore to read. 3/10.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Review: The Last Dark by Stephen R. Donaldson

With the worm at world's end roused and seeking the to devour the Elohim the Land is plunged into a never ending twilight. With her adopted son Jeremiah finally free of his dissociation Linden Avery seeks to aid him in a desperate plan to build a refuge for the remaining Elohim and forestall the end of everything.  Meanwhile Thomas Covenant has finally put an end to his insane ex-wife's suffering and the inadvertent damage she was doing to the arch of time. Covenant is healed from his injury's by Brinn who tasks Covenant with protecting the Lurker against possession by a Raver. All three characters must face their greatest fears if the Land is to survive.

As one would hope in the concluding volume in a series plot lines are constantly being resolved throughout this novel. This set up a steady pace throughout which certainly kept me engaged.

As always the main strength of any Donaldson novel is the depth of his characters. Covenant, Linden and Jeremiah all get point of view chapters and Donaldson does an amazing job of showing the toll the strain of events takes on each of them. The cast of support characters are also exceptionally strong and well fleshed out.

Overall strong pacing and engaging characters make for a fitting finale for one of the cornerstone series in fantasy literature. 8.5/10.